Michael Standard, a Chilmark summer resident and a retired partner in the New York city law firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman, died of pneumonia on July 2 at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. He was 79.
Michael Standard was born in Greenwich Village, graduated from Columbia College in 1955 and Brooklyn Law School in 1959.
As a trial and appellate lawyer, Michael represented various instrumentalities of the Cuban and Angolan governments. In his early years in practice, he represented The Fellowship of Reconciliation in Nyack, N.Y. During the Freedom Summer of 1964, he went to Mississippi and Alabama to provide legal services during the voter registration struggle. Later that year, he became one of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s newly formed panel of legal advisors. He also represented Paul Robeson Jr. in various copyright issues, and argued a selective service case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1972, Michael won the appellate case of Wesley Clyde Brown, a young black teacher and writer who refused to fight in the Vietnam War and went to prison despite having applied to his local draft board for an exemption as a conscientious objector.
In 1982, during a brief easing of travel restrictions on U.S. citizens, Michael shepherded four Vineyarders to Cuba. The trip was mainly for bird shooting as Bruce Hayden, John Gadowski and Danny Bryant were all avid hunters. Betty Ann Bryant and Elinore Standard were on their own in Havana, while the men went to a vast wildlife preserve in Pinar del Rio province. At that time, the late Betty Ann was a Chilmark selectman and throughout the tour, she was known by the Cubans as “The Alcaldessa.”
In a Gazette piece by Stan Hart after the group returned, Betty Ann was asked if she thought the four Vineyarders were shown only the things Castro wanted them to see. “It is always possible,” said Betty, “but I doubt it. If there is one thing I know about, it is children. And when I looked into the faces of young children, I saw happy kids. You can’t fake a happy kid.” In the same piece, John Gadowski concluded, “Working people get along with working people anywhere. It’s their leaders that complicate things.”
As part of the Yale College Seminar Program, Michael taught a course on the exploration of the current and historical relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, with particular emphasis on U.S. law and regulations, and upon litigation growing out of the political relations beginning with the embargo.
Michael leaves his wife of 48 years, Elinore Hart Standard; his son Dr. Sam Standard and daughter in law Laura Standard of Burlington, Vt., and two grandchildren, Elias and Maya Standard.
Michael Standard will be buried at Abel’s Hill Cemetery in Chilmark on August 8, and a memorial service will be held later in Burlington.